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TOM PHILPOTT – UTIs Are Horrible and Soon There Will Be No Drugs That Can Help You

A superbug that can shake off a last-ditch antibiotic called colistin has been alarming the global health community since 2015. It first turned up in hogs on a Chinese farm and has since been found in 30 other countries, including the United States. According to a new paper by Rutgers and Columbia University researchers, colistin-resistant E. coli has been here since August 2014 at the latest—and the particular strain they found is also resistant to another family of last-resort antibiotics, carbapenems.

To learn more about the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the research team took a fresh look at old samples of E. colitaken from patients at a New Jersey hospital. The worrisome strain appeared in a urine sample taken in 2014 from a 76-year-old man with a urinary tract infection. At the time, the case was fairly routine—the man’s UTI was cured by common antibiotics. But when the researchers re-analyzed the sample this year, they found the E. coli in it could withstand both colistin and carbapenems—the first bacteria identified in the United States with resistance to both drugs.

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